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While there is no fixed definition of a place-based approach, there is some consensus it should involve:

A collaborative, long-term approach to build thriving communities delivered in a defined geographic location. This approach is ideally characterised by partnering and shared design, shared stewardship, and shared accountability for outcomes and impacts.

Dart 2018: 7

Place-based approaches (sometimes called ‘community-led’ approaches) are ways of working to address social, economic and ecological disadvantage. They are community-led, strengths-based responses that empower local people to respond to complex, interrelated issues in a local place. These approaches bring stakeholders from different communities and sectors together to strengthen collaboration and knowledge sharing. They value First Nations and local expertise and ownership. Local people usually lead design and implementation, and hold decision-making power and accountability.

Place-based approaches belong to a well-established network of practices that value community-driven change and transformation. Over the years, they have been adopted to address localised needs in areas as diverse—and connected—as disaster recovery, child development, Aboriginal self-determination, land-care, industry closure and economic renewal, regional healthcare, and crime prevention. These approaches aim to ensure policies at the national, state and local level are carried out according to community need and expertise.

Evidence suggests only communities empowered to make their own decisions end up with solutions that truly have an impact in the long term. There is a need for collaboration, research and evaluation to unlock the full potential of place-based approaches.